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THE    CHINESE    PEOPLE                  3!
Six Dynasties, from Eastern Chin to the unification of China under Sui, during which North China was overrun with barbaric conquerors, and the period of northern invasion in the second cycle, from the Southern Sung Dynasty to the Mongol Dynasty inclusive, seem to have corresponded with periods of effeminacy of living and decadence of literary style, the first period noted for its artificial and flowery ssuliu euphuistic prose, and the second for its effeminate sentimental poetry. One observes, in fact, not a paucity but an over-abundance of words, played out to their finest nuances, with no more the smell of the soil, but the decadent, cultivated, super-refined flavour of court perfume. The Chinese showed a certain Jin-de-siccle delight in the sounds of words, and an extreme refinement in literary and artistic criticism, and in aristocratic habits of living.
For it was in these periods that painting and calligraphy flourished, and aristocratic families rose and established themselves to carry on the artistic tradition. Chinese literary criticism first became conscious of itself in the Six Dynasties, and Wang Hsichih, the first and greatest calligraphist, who was born of a great aristocratic family, lived in this period. Political weakness and disgrace somehow coincided with artistic refinement, and southern China was ruled in these periods by kings who could not keep their thrones secure but could write exquisite verse. Such ruler-poets were Liang Wuti, Nant'ang Houchu, and Ch'en Houchu, all of them kings of extremely short-lived dynasties and writers of tender love lyrics. The Emperor Huichung of the Southern Sung Dynasty was also a noted painter.
Yet it was in these periods that the germ for the racial revival was laid. Foi the northern conquerors remained conquerors only in official power, the substrata remaining Chinese. The great Northern Wei Dynasty, whose rulers were of the Sienpei race, not only adopted Chinese culture but also freely intermarried with the Chinese. So were the so-called Kin (Manchu) kingdoms in the Sung Dynasty largely Chinese. A fermenting process was at work. Even culturally, these periods were periods of penetration of foreign influence, notably that of Buddhism and Indian sculpture in the end of